Much has been made of Gen X/Y’s post-ironic use of craft under the auspices of fine art. Installation artist Harvest Henderson shares her take on this phenomenon at Ogle this month in Never a Stitch nor an End . Over the past few years, Henderson has made a name for herself with conceptually and spatially engaging projects such as Pause Gallery’s 2005 Greener , in which she spray-painted sod and hung girlie-mag centerfolds to critique postmodern artificiality, and Residence Gallery’s Can’tSleepTooMuchToDo that same year, in which she fashioned an entire bedroom out of sewn to-do lists. This year, her dangling-apple chandelier at Portland Art Center and cardboard-cutout text at Stumptown further established her as a freewheeling and often innovative spatial thinker. In the current show she appropriates found paper objects—shopping bags, envelopes, receipts and book pages—and embroiders them with body parts from medical diagrams: a heart, spine, brain, eye, rib cage, lungs, fetus and vagina.
With the exception of a clotheslinelike installation called Body Flotsam , the works are uniformly framed and matted and therefore read as drier and more formal than Henderson’s past outings. Visually, this is a departure and a disappointment in contrast to the more dynamic, if no less meticulous, output gallery goers have come to expect from her. Conceptually, the works invite diverse interpretation. The artist maintains she is riffing on the opposition of the medical diagrams’ rigor and the human body’s messy fallibility. On her artist statement she also writes that as a child she “shunned sewing as a utilitarian and feminine pursuit,” given that she “wanted nothing to do with femininity.” This is part of the paradox that defines and obscures Henderson, who for many years freelanced both as a fashion model for regional advertisements and catalogs and as an arts and culture reporter for The Oregonian . In her viscera-adorned shopping bags we see the push-and-pull of the idea of the contemporary woman as glossy consumerist object and Enjoli perfume-wearing feminist multi-tasker. Although comparatively torpid spatially, Never a Stitch ... is nevertheless a mass of discomfiting contradictions, which is to say, the stuff of which thought-provoking art is made.
SEE IT: Ogle, 310 NW Broadway, 227-4333. Closes Dec. 1.